A HARD DAY (Kkeut-kka-ji-gan-day
Kino Lorber Films
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Grade: B+
Director: Kim Seong-hun
Screenwriter:  Kim Seong-hun, Kim Seong-hoon, Hae-jun Lee
Cast:  Lee Sun-kyun, Jin-woong Jo, Shin Jung-keun, Jeong Man-sik, Shin Dong-mi
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 7/7/15
Opens:  July 17, 2015

There was a time not so long ago that too many New York City police were corrupt. The scams started with cops’ accepting free meals on their beats and culminated with their ripping off drug lords.  We had the impression that Frank Serpico was the only honest guy in blue, contributing in April 1970 to a front page article in the New York Times describing the corruption.  While knocking down the door of a suspected drug dealer, the police allowed Serpico to enter the apartment first, where he got shot in the face and ultimately had to leave the U.S. for Switzerland to escape from his enemies in the force..  You get the impression soon enough that a precinct in Korea, probably in Seoul, was like New York in the sixties.  All the police and detectives are on the take, though the proceeds are nothing monumental.  When Detective Lieutenant Ko Gun-su (Lee Sun-kyun) runs over a man on a dark night while trying to avoid hitting a stray dog, the act seems unrelated to the drug scene.  Ko could have done the right thing by reporting running down this man but for some reason he went the hit-and-run circuit, hauled the body to the trunk of his car, and ultimately disinterred his mother’s grave to bury the hit-run corpse in a coffin with his just-departed mother.

This wasn’t Ko’s day. In twenty-four hours he buries his mother, is nagged by his wife to fund a coffee shop near the police station, is investigated by Internal Affairs which had discovered the cash that the precinct had amassed, and worst of all is being followed and threatened by another lieutenant who phones Ko that his auto accident and concealment was watched.  This looks like blackmail but the meeting lands Ko in two fights, one to the death, in which Ko is waterboarded in a toilet by a guy who could give Robocop and Terminator a run for the money.

“A Hard Day” is only director Kim Seong-hoon’s second film, remarkable in its combination of well choreographed fighting, a number of full-belly laughs (it helps that the lead character has the face of a comedian), a series of action sequences that follow organically one upon the other, and a Quentin Tarantino-like eye for detail, including a gun whose trigger gets enmeshed in a screw.  There’s a scene near the conclusion that shows how impossible it would be for the man who discovers the literal key to a fortune to withdraw all the money.

Among the bon mots is one that finds Ko’s chief urging him to withdraw a resignation, reminding the detective why he first became a police officer.  Was it to fight crime and help the innocent?  No, it is for “retirement with full benefits.”  New York and Seoul are pretty much alike.

Unrated.  111 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – A-
Overall – B+


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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